Kyrgyzstan develops aviation transport services
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to promote cellular sector growth
Uzbek theatre group teaches contemporary drama
Egypt announces arrest of al-Qaeda-linked terrorist cell
Pakistan, Afghan militants quit amid feuding, threats of arrest
Al-Qaeda-inspired groups weakened by defections
By Intikhab Amir
PESHAWAR – The strain of the life in the militancy, and being on the run from security personnel, apparently is wearing on some militants, leading some insurgents to quit.
Ilyas Shinwari, a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commander in Khyber Agency, is an example of how outside pressures are forcing terrorists to quit.
Shinwari, wanted in kidnappings for ransom and for attacks on oil tankers travelling to Afghanistan, surrendered May 31. Shinwari turned himself in because his brother and father – also associated with terrorists – had been arrested earlier and he feared arrest, according to Saaz Muhammad, tehsildar of the Bazaar sub-division of Landikotal, Khyber Agency.
But others leave because of internal disputes within the militant organisation.
Causes of withdrawal
“Some of the militants ... can’t tolerate hardships that one suffers by adopting militancy,” said Brig. Saad Mohammad, Pakistani ex-defence attaché in Kabul. Others quit because their conscience wouldn’t let them stay, he said.
The crackdown on militants has been a contributing factor, he added. “Being a fugitive, deep-rooted fears infect them, making some give up the militancy and sit on the side-lines,” Saad said.
The war on terror has weakened terrorist group positions, and “No one stays on a sinking boat,” Saad said in explaining the exodus from militant groups.
“Militant organisations, like military units, work as tightly-knit groups,” he said. “They are governed by strict discipline. If you (the militant) are not happy or have disputes with other members of the group, it affects the group’s unity.”
Similarly, weaknesses on the leader’s part make the group members run away, he said.
A recent RAND Europe research report on why terrorists quit al-Qaeda and other groups, found four categories of reasons why militants are abandoning their groups. The reasons are: social (strong family ties, for example); psychological (such as disillusionment with the objectives of the militant group); physical (changing roles within the group); or interventions (government programmes to change mind-sets, for example).
Regardless of what class the reason falls into, insurgents may “voluntarily or involuntarily (via arrest or death)” leave a militant organisation, the study found.
Internal forces contribute to defections
It’s not always outside pressures that cause the defections. Leadership weaknesses and internal disputes have divided some militant groups, rendering them ineffective and causing members to leave.
“If you go by their number, there are some 130 militant groups in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), but one-third of them have either vanished or become dormant,” said Ashraf Ali, director of the FATA Research Centre, an Islamabad-based think tank. Internal feuding derailed several TTP groups in FATA, he said. “Only the major groups survive; small outfits become non-entities as the disenchanted members leave the militancy.”
In Bajaur Agency, for example, an entire group of militants under the command of Wali-ur-Rehman surrendered after negotiating a peace deal with the local authorities, Ali said. Similarly, a TTP chapter in the Mohmand tribal region faded away after commander Abdul Wali (aka Umer Khalid) fled and his followers deserted him after an effective military crackdown in 2008-2009, Ali said.
“Right now ... in Khyber Agency, five major groups of militants are fighting each other,” said Ali, adding, “The TTP group, led by Tariq Afridi, is fighting against all four other groups – Ansaar ul Islam (led by Qazi Mehboob ul Haq), Lashkar-e-Islam (led by Mangal Bagh), Tauheed-e-Islam (jointly led by Tayyab and Ghunzha Gul), and Amer bil Maroof Wa-Nahee Anil Munkir (led by Maulvi Naamdar).”
Such infighting weakens the militant groups and can drive away some members, Ali said. Militant groups also lose their lesser committed members if the groups enter into peace talks, he said.
“Even in Afghanistan when Taliban leader Mullah Omar showed willingness to enter into parleys ... his colleagues got annoyed, as according to media reports, they took it as a violation of the ‘sacred cause,’” Ali said.